Tour de Mojave…

There’s something about a bicycle — you experience travel at a human scale. You see, smell, hear, and feel your surroundings just like walking or hiking. Cycling takes place though, at a pace where you can actually go somewhere.

Last week my friends Ashley, Tim, and I rode our bikes along Route 66 from Victorville California to Seligman Arizona. We did this over five days. Below are some of the highlights.

Day One: Shuttling The Car…

We met in Seligman Arizona which would be the final destination of our tour. I drove from Fallbrook while Tim and Ashley arrived from Phippsburg Colorado. We spent the night at The Historic Route 66 Motel in Seligman. Our rooms were comfortable, clean, and decorated with plenty of Route 66 shtick. 

After checking into our motel, we walked around Seligman and met a few locals. We also met Pancho, who may have been a ridgeback/bulldog mix. Pancho was both friendly and photogenic. There’s not much in Seligman — just a  crossroads of Route 66 and I-40. It’s s also a staging area for trains. It was charming though, and I’d like to go back and spend a couple nights there sometime. 

We ended the evening with dinner at the Roadkill Café. The food was excellent, and as you’d expect at a restaurant on Route 66, the walls were adorned with remnants of mid-century America, including a Rickenbacker 6-string which Tim couldn’t ignore. 

Day Two: Barstow To Victorville And Back — 52 miles 

The following morning we left Tim and Ashley’s car in Seligman and headed to Victorville in my car with our bikes — but we never made it. Driving west from Seligman we decided to start in Barstow. We took a motel room in Barstow, staged our car, and took a day ride from Barstow to Victorville and back. It was a way to get in a few extra miles and get warmed up for the rest of the week.

A couple things I already knew about the desert, but was reminded of during our ride from Barstow to Victorville and back…

– The desert is hot

– The desert is dirty

– Desert communities which thrived 40 or 50 years ago have been largely abandoned

– People in the desert make cool shit out of junk

– The desert is where meth comes from

In-between the two towns though, the landscape was magnificent. I’m fascinated by desert horizons, shapes, contrasting hues, and where the jagged earth meets the faded blue sky in a beautiful conclusion.

We rode strong and had no issues that day. We stopped 25-miles out of Barstow at The Bottle Forest. We didn’t learn too much about it, but it appears to have been there for a while. Someone has crafted dozens of trees by welding small steel stems to vertical steel poles. The branches are adorned with old glass bottles, electrical line insulators, and antiques such as typewriters, musical instruments, cash registers, and more. There was a young couple having the prom pictures taken there. We thought that was cool.

Day 3: Barstow To Ludlow — 53 miles 

This would be a short day, just 53 miles. We had a slow start out of Barstow. Roughly a mile in we had to make an adjustment to the trailer Tim and Ashley pulled behind their tandem bike. The adjustment took just a couple of minutes, but finding somebody to open the tool cachet at Walmart for the vice-grips we needed took nearly 45-minutes. Every Walmart is a Walmart, but the Walmart in the Barstow is the Walmartiest Walmart in the world. Every stereotype in the book. 

Back on our bikes and just a few miles further down the road there we found ourselves at the front gate of the Marine Logistics Base in Barstow. Apparently Route 66 cuts through the base but civilians aren’t allowed on. They detoured us onto I-40 or a few miles before we could reconnect with Route 66.

From there we had a flat stretch with a tailwind that carried us at 19 mph for roughly 10-miles. We slowed a little from some shallow climbing for 30-miles or so. The riding day ended by descending into Ludlow a little after 1:30pm. 

Temperature along the way was 103°. Riding wasn’t too difficult, but we definitely felt the heat. We stopped a couple of times along the way to take some photographs of railroad car graffiti, the basalt infused Martian landscape, and to drink water under the shade — but there was no shade. 

After checking into our motel, we had lunch at the Ludlow Café. There we met two bicycle tourists, Eric and Alicia. They’re riding from coastal Orange County to Trenton New Jersey. Eric‘s mom passed away last year and he’s delivering some of her ashes to Trenton, where she’s from. It was fun to connect with them. We talked about bikes, routes, and just got acquainted a bit. I wished them well on their endeavor and tried to not let on that I was jealous.

We had a good night sleeping at the motel, and left early the following morning for Needles. 

Day 4: Ludlow To Needles — 110 miles 

This would be our longest stretch 110-miles and coincidentally in 110° heat. We got off to an early start, leaving Ludlow just before sunup. To our surprise, and not too far down the road, was a barricade that stretched the width of the road. 

ROAD CLOSED

Our next section of Rout 66 was closed to traffic. Wait, what… 🤷🏼‍♂️ We came to ride Route 66. 

We decided to take our chances and go around the barricade. Within a couple miles there was another barricade — we went around that one also. We just kept heading east, mile after mile, going around intermittent barricades. To that point, the road looked fine and we couldn’t understand why it was closed.

Maybe 10-miles in we began noticing portions of the road were washed out beside each barricade. We passed a half-dozen or so sections where large chunks of the road were washed out. There was always enough pavement though, to cross our bikes over safely. There was one section of road that was completely washed out so we carried our bikes around through the dried wash. 

Long story less long… 

We got to ride a 62-mile stretch of Route 66 with virtually no automobile traffic, except the occasional engineering vehicle in the area to assess the washed out portions of road. We road side-by-side and for much of it, and on the left-hand side of the road. We joked that we were taking the English Route 66. 

I can’t stress enough what a gift that was — 62-miles of the nation’s most historic highway with no automobile traffic. Might have been the most fun I’ve ever had on a bike. I can’t imagine they’ll have the road fixed anytime soon, so I may go back later this summer and ride that stretch again.

The town of Fenner California is little more than a Chevron station with $8.49 per gallon gas. We stopped there to replenish our water bottles, take in some air-conditioning, and eat a little ice cream. There we met up with Eric and Alicia again. We enjoyed a little refrigeration time with them, rehydrating, and slamming calories. I drank four Vitamin Waters in less than 5-minutes and got so chilled that I went outside to warm up again. 

Overall the day rode well. We had a tailwind for much of the day. Most of the climbing was gradual and the heat didn’t get to us until the last 20-miles or so. We stepped into the hotel in Needles tired but not defeated — we had just ridden across the Mojave desert in the peak of the day, and had fun doing it. After checking in we headed straight to the Chinese restaurant across the parking lot. Riding long distances in the desert heat will make you crave strange things. For the last few miles of the day, I just wanted to drink a bottle of blue cheese salad dressing, but settled for vegetables with tofu.

Thinking about our mileage that day, and missing Stroodle, I got to thinking if there’s such a thing as dog mileage — like dog years. I wondered if our 110-mile journey would’ve been more like 200-miles to him. You know, little legs and all. 

Day 5: Needles To Kingman — 63 miles 

We rode only 63-miles from Needles to Kingman, but climbed in excess of 5,000 feet by way of Oatman — some of the steepest climbing I’ve ever done. The temperature was 105°. If I counted correctly, I drank (10) bottles of water or Gatorade that day. 

Oatman is an interesting town, small, touristy, and not much there really. Virtually every shop we walked into, the first words the shopkeeper spoke were…

“Ten-dollar minimum for debit cards…“

Oatman had a half-dozen burros walking around, soliciting food from tourists willing to pay five dollars for a handful of grass pellets. One shopkeeper, assuming we had no idea what we were doing, assured us that we had a difficult climb ahead. We made jokes at his mom’s expense the rest of the day. 

The flipside of climbing through and above Oatman was a fun decent for about 6-miles — just coasting and taking in the scenery.  Because it was a steep climb it was also a steep descent. Those 6-miles were more fun than any amusement park ride I’ve ever been on. 

We did well for most of the day, even through the hard climbing. After our descent though, and a short roadside stop for fluids and food, the heat got the better of me. We had a 10-mile flat stretch into Kingman where I was feeling a little bit nauseous and loopy. At the end of that was a shallow climb and I was toast. 

After checking into the motel, Tim and I jumped into the pool. I confided I was considering staying behind for a day. I was hot and exhausted. Tim understood and supported whatever decision I made. After a swim and an excellent Mexican dinner at La Catrina (highly recommend if you’re ever in Kingman), I decided to push on, which I knew I would. Maybe I just needed to hear myself speak my weakness. Yeah, that’s it.

I kept thinking of the Steven Wright joke…

“Anywhere is walking distance if you’ve got the time…”

So too with the bicycle, and I had the time.

Day 6: Kingman To Seligman — 83 miles

Riding from Kingman to Seligman is uphill most of the way. The climbing wasn’t steep, just slow going. We stopped mid-day on the Hualapai Reservation in Peach Springs Arizona. Lunch was at the Hualapai Lodge. Something about bicycle touring makes every restaurant meal the best meal ever. I ordered a basket of onion rings and began eating them before our waitress set them down. They were the best onion rings I’ve ever had, and the tater-tots I stole from Tim where every bit as good. 

Perhaps an hour out of Kingman we began to see something we hadn’t seen much of during week — trees and brush. And as we gained elevation, the trees and brush increased. That would be a good thing because halfway between Peach Springs and Seligman, the bracket connecting the trailer to Tim and Ashley‘s bike broke and the trailer came loose. 

If this had happened earlier in the week it would have posed a far greater problem. However, we were just a few hours from our final destination. With a car waiting at our motel in Seligman, Tim hid the trailer behind some brush and we continued on. He and Ashley would backtrack and retrieve it after checking into our motel. 

With Tim and Ashley no longer towing their trailer, and with me still hauling my gear, they broke away. I finished the last 25-miles of our trip on my own — which gave me a little time to think about my mom. Mom lived much of her adult life in rural Arizona so it was a perfect place to reflect. Perhaps it was because I was thinking about my mom, or the fact that the trip was almost over, but I suddenly found myself crying as I pedaled into an unforgiving wind. 

The final stretch into Seligman was brutal. Saddle-sore from a week of riding, I couldn’t stay on my seat. I pedaled standing up for the last 15-miles of the trip. As I drew closer to Kingman, the wind was as bad as it was all week. I was done — in every possible way. 

When I arrived in Seligman, Tim and Ashley had already checked into the motel and were in their car ready to retrieve their trailer. I collapsed on the hotel bed for a few minutes, took a shower, I made a few phone calls to let people know I had arrived.  

We had just completed the hardest part of Route 66 to ride by bicycle, and had done so in 100° heat every day. It was the most challenging physical endeavor of my life. At dinner that night, back at the Roadkill Café, we were already talking about our next our next adventure. No conclusions were made, other than deciding it needs to be a few days longer.  

Straight up, Tim is the most durable cyclist I’ve ever met. Nothing bothered him. The sentence Ashley and I heard from him over and over last week was…

“We’ll be fine, we’ll be fine…“

Tim’s reassurance got us through the few tense moments we had. He was a fantastic leader. 

Ashley is recovering from cancer for the second time. I’ll repeat that — for the second time…!  Her final radiation treatment was in March. That’s a level of bravery I’ll never know — to ride a bike across the Mojave on the hottest week of the year while still in recovery. I was humbled by that every day.

For me, I didn’t bring much to the table other than a lot of ‘your mom’ jokes along the way. Every endeavor needs its comic relief and I did my best to do my part.

What’s the point of doing anything, I thought, if I can’t fill my social media feeds with pictures and words from the trip…? Each evening, after we settled into our motels and ate, I’d edit pictures and journal the day behind us. Tim and Ashley journaled the old fashion way, with a pen and notebook. 

I ride a bike roughly 350 days per year. Each morning when I wake up, before I pet my dog or turn on the coffee pot, I ask myself, what’s it going to be today…? Where will I ride and how soon can I get out…?  Waking up in Seligman Thursday morning was the first time in six years I had no desire to get on a bike. The urge will come back though, and I’ll likely have been on a bike before you read this.

Lastly, and I can’t stress this enough…

Adventure isn’t something that just happens. Adventure is a choice — it’s opening one’s self up to vulnerabilities and allowing their creative side to navigate around, through, and beyond them. Adventure might be the purest form of creativity I’ve ever known. 

This is what I think about when I ride… Jhciacb 

The Tour By The Numbers…

361 miles

14,000’ climbing

12.5 mph avg

21,300 calories

Seat Time: 31 hours 12 minutes

Whether you ride a bike or not, thank you for taking the time to ride along this week. If you haven’t already, please scroll up and subscribe. If you like what you read, give it a like and a share. If not, just keep scrollin’. Oh, and there’s this from Link Wray. Enjoy…!

👍🏻

Dignity Etched…

I’ve seen things on social media which suggest that, as I watched my mother age, I’d be more likely to remember her as she was when she was young. Or at the very least, I’ll remember her as she was when I was young. When I consider this, after having had her with me for her last 6-years, I don’t see it that way. I’ve mostly forgotten my mother in her youth — the mother of my youth.

As she aged, and as her physical and cognitive abilities lessened, the images of my mother in her youth faded over time, giving way to the more indelible imprints of my mother as she was in her decline. This is not a bad thing. Five years from now or even 20, I’m sure I won’t think too much of or remember too well the mother of my youth, but I’ll always remember my aged mom.

When I think of her then, as she was when she was young compared to how I saw her these past 6-years, it’s been a tale of two women. The mother of my youth could hike, swim, stay up late, and prepare a holiday feast for 12 in less than 3-hours, but there was yet to be that earned dignity which defined her at the end.

As her steps became unsteady, as her voice began to quiver and as her hands more resembled parched road maps with coffee stains on them, the wisdom, the experience, and survivalism that came with those added up to the dignity I’ll choose to remember her with.

This is a good reminder that, as bright and capable as I may feel today, I’ve yet to pay my real dues. The dues I speak of are not the dues of career, of parenthood, or of middle-age responsibilities — I’ve done all that and so did my mom.

The real dues my mother paid — those she paid in her final years, are the most important dues of all. Those were the dues of having it all — and of having it all slowly slip away. Yet each day, despite her physical and cognitive decline, she woke with the intentions of living, loving, and being there for anyone who needed her. I’m not sure it’s in me to be that unbridled.

I’m grateful that I’ll remember my mother as person who fell asleep on the sofa each day by 3pm, who heated up a Stouffer’s corn soufflé for dinner rather than attempt to make one from scratch, who often called me by my brother’s name, and who asked me the same damned questions and offered the same stories again and again.

That person — the mother who graced this house with dignity etched onto her aging face and skin, is the mother that reminds me daily, even in the vacuum of her absence, I’ll be more like her in the not too distant future than the me I am today.

And it’s that mother, not the mother of my youth, who reminds me it’s a fool’s task to pursue perpetual youth, and that the only dignity which matters is the dignity that comes only from letting go of youth and letting go of all those things that, as time proves to us all, never mattered much to begin with.

This is what I think about when I ride… Jhciacb

This week by the numbers…

Bikes Ridden: 6

Miles: 232

Climbing: 10,500’

Mph Avg: 14.0

Calories: 13,000

Seat Time: 16 hours 36 minutes

Whether you ride a bike or not, thank you for taking the time to ride along this week. If you haven’t already, please scroll up and subscribe. If you like what you read, give it a like 👍🏻 and a share. Oh, and there’s this from Spoon. Enjoy…!

A Picture Of Everyone…

The picture below hung in the upstairs hallway of my childhood home. My father purchased it before I was born, so it’s been a part of my life from my earliest days. 

When I was smaller, it was over my head, both in placement and intellectually. As a toddler, I’d have to strain my neck just to look at it. In time though, I’d grow taller and my eyes would better connect with the cultures of the world. I was fascinated by the people, their varying skin tones, the different clothes they wore, and the religions they represented. I would read the message over and over again…

“Do unto others as you have them do unto you…”

Even as a child this seemed like a good way to be.

When I was tall enough, I’d remove the picture from the wall and prop it up on a table in my bedroom. I’d just stare at it — getting lost in the people and the stories they represented. The picture opened my mind to the possibilities of belief. I’d always make sure to put it back exactly as I found it though, so my parents wouldn’t know I was regularly removing it. 

When my parents separated, Rockwell’s Golden Rule went with my father. Dad displayed it wherever he lived, from Montana, to New Jersey, to Las Vegas where he eventually retired. When my father passed away, the painting ended up in my hands, where it remains to this day — and I still stop to take it in daily. 

Fast forward several decades…

The year I turned 40, my brother suggested I read The Religions Of Man by Huston Smith (1958, now called The World’s Religions). To this day, it remains the seminal text for introducing religion to first-year college students.

The book, like the Rockwell’s panting, captivated me. Smith’s book expanded the possibilities of belief. Every time I opened World’s Religions, and every time I’d start a new chapter, I’d flash back to Rockwell’s Golden Rule — it was a way to connect that painting with the rich history of religious observance from every corner of the world.

Each time I completed a chapter of The World’s Religions, I felt a visceral bond with the religion which had been covered. When I put the book down, I felt that I had a little bit of every religion in me. On completing the book, I dubbed myself a freelance person of faith.

Through dozens more books over the next twenty years, covering every religion from Shinto, to Sikhism, to Judaism, to Zoroastrianism, and beyond, I’d always feel better connected with the religion I was studying, and very often felt it was the perfect theology for me at that time, but remained committed to my religion of one. 

More recently, the last couple years, my emphasis has been on learning about Islam, which is quite infectious the deeper one dives into it. Islam is, by far, the least understood of all the Abrahamic faiths, at least in the western world. I’ll suggest that the prejudice against Islam, especially in the United States, is far greater and more intense than any prejudice against Judaism and Christianity — to the point where it’s shameful. A story for another essay.

Anyway, I was looking at the picture below yesterday, and realized that my fascination — my love of religion began with a painting which hung in the hallway of my childhood home. And with a Christian mother and a Jewish father who, despite their many differences, never said a negative word about the religion each other was raised in. We should all be so graceful in matters of faith.

This is what I think about when I ride… Jhciacb 

This week by the numbers…

Bikes Ridden: 4

Miles: 154

Climbing: 7,800’

Mph Avg: 13.8

Calories: 8,500

Seat Time: 11 hours 11 minutes

Whether you ride a bike or not, thank you for taking the time to ride along this week. If you haven’t already, please scroll up and subscribe. If you like what you read, give it a like 👍🏻 and a share. Oh, and there’s this from The Grief Brothers. Enjoy…

Earth Day After…

In 1970, when the original Earth Day took place, Mrs. Vogel was my 2nd grade teacher. She said something to our class that day, as we sat cross-legged in the grass outside the classroom door, that forever shaped my sensibilities when in matters of planetary stewardship…

“You wouldn’t throw trash at your mother, so why would anyone throw trash at Mother Earth…?”

Perhaps it went over the heads of the other kids, but that sentence grasped me. Mrs. Vogel was one of the few teachers I still think about. She was a hippie, as much as she could be in that profession in 1970. She was also an artist, an activist, and I don’t think she cared too much for rules. She often conducted class barefoot. Fifty years later, as I walk around my studio each day without shoes, I can’t help but feel Mrs. Vogel’s influence. On Earth Day, I always think of her.

I saw a lot of nods to Earth Day on social media last week — many of the usual suggestions…

– Eat less meat

– Recycle more

– Use less water

– Conserve household energy

– Drive less, and do so in more efficient vehicles

– Travel less

– Use less paper

– Eliminate single-use plastics

– Vote for politicians who champion fighting the climate crisis

These are important ideas, and if we all practiced them, it might benefit our ecology over time. I have my own thoughts though, on some other ideas that might have a more immediate impact on climate change. The bad news is, aside from me not being an ecologist or climatologist, is that few people I speak with seem willing to entertain these. 

One:

No reasonable conversation about climate change should exclude the use of nuclear energy, if only as a 100-year (or so) bridge until the use of sustainable renewable energy is mastered and maximized. 

Two: 

Accept that we can live without most printed materials. This would include books, newspapers, work and legal documents, magazines, pamphlets, brochures, and correspondence, etc. Virtually everything printed today begins in digital format. Since the digital infrastructure is already in place to transmit any would-be printed material electronically, the printing of most materials, regardless of justification, isn’t necessary. Yes, even our precious books. 

The amount of energy required to produce and transport our printed materials is greater than most people realize. It’s been suggested by some climate scientists that replacing all printed materials with digital copies could, by itself, create a measurable slowing of CO2 levels within a couple of decades. 

Three: 

Eat less. If we ate only the calories we need each day to break even with our energy expenditure, it might be the most significant personal adjustment we could make to offset climate change  — even  ahead of driving less, using less household energy, and recycling. Virtually every calorie we eat that we don’t require increases the strain on the global food system and subsequently the environment.

Eating only what we need, and not throwing away food unnecessarily, would bolster food supply, take stress off the transportation system, and ease the agricultural system. Notwithstanding that it might make us all healthier and function better as individuals, families, and societies.

I get it — it’s difficult to consider any of these, let alone put them into practice. Most everyone reading this believe that hardbound books and newspapers are staples of an informed and intelligent culture. And most believe that there’s nothing wrong with an extra helping of mashed potatoes with dinner or to snack as we see fit. Yet these ideas, put into play on the sooner side, might help thwart climate change as well as many of the measures that are so often talked about.

But none of this really matters. Because the most important thing we can do to combat climate change is something we are increasingly unwilling to do — to prioritize bridging the gaps between political and cultural divisions. No significant steps in addressing climate change can be initiated from a divided populous and the dysfunctional Congress elected by that populous. At the most basic level, we need to grow up, quit pointing fingers, and get to work. 

I know it’s unlikely that more than a few hundred people will read this, and less likely that it will impact anyone who does. That said, I think these ideas are worth considering because they would have the most immediate and unprecedented impact on our changing ecology. Food for thought — so to say. And a nod to Mrs. Vogel.

This is what I think about when I ride… Jhciacb 

This week by the numbers…

Bikes Ridden: 3

Miles: 173

Climbing: 10,500’

Mph Avg: 14.1

Calories: 9,500

Seat Time: 12 hours 12 minutes

Whether you ride a bike or not, thank you for taking the time to ride along this week. If you haven’t already, please scroll up and subscribe. If you like what you read, give it a like 👍🏻 and a share. Oh, and there’s this from Peter Rowan. Enjoy…

My Little Football Friend…

For over a decade, my sidekick and I walked side-by-side at the Los Juilgeros Preserve — a 25-acre nature preserve just a mile from downtown Fallbrook. It’s a place where he enjoyed hunting for sniffs. Walking off leash from an early age, he had the freedom to roam and follow his nose, but never went too far from dad — and I never took my eyes off of him. 

A few years back, around the time he turned 16, what we referred to as the Big Preserve was a little too big, and we took our walks to what we called the Little Preserve — a smaller but similar landscape, and our walks were reduced to less than a mile. And that’s where we’ve been walking for the last few years.

We don’t walk the Little Preserve anymore either. His steps are slower, his bones getting frail, and he tires easy. These days, we drive to the local school district office, which has a small park in front that’s dog friendly. I put him down, let him hunt for some sniffs, do his thing, and often he’ll lay in the sun for 5 or 10-minutes before we head home.

He still gets excited when I head to the front door, and ultimately I think that’s what it’s about — to leave the house, get in the car, and just go somewhere. When I think about it, it’s not too different than when I would take my mom to the airpark each day for lunch — just a reason to get out and see that the world is still there.

Missing the days of our longer walks, and missing the natural surroundings they took place in, I’ve been taking Stroodle once again to the Little Preserve. He doesn’t walk the trail anymore. I carry him like a little football tucked into my right arm. I carry him a few hundred yards, put him down, let him get a few sniffs, and if he’s so inclined, lay in the sun. Then I scoop him up, walk a few hundred more yards, and repeat the process until we’ve completed the 3/4 mile trail.

He’s almost 19 years old. I know this can’t go on. Each day when I wake up the first words out of my mouth are “thank you for another day“. I then ask him for one more year, but I know that’s not realistic.

It’s funny though — as old and slow as he can be when I take him for our walks, when I put on my overshirt, grab the car key, and open the front door, he jumps from the sofa like a puppy, spins a couple times, and beams with excitement. He’s my little old man and my kid, simultaneously.

This is what I think about when I ride… Jhciacb

This week by the numbers…

Bikes Ridden: 6

Miles: 179

Climbing: 8,000’

Mph Avg: 14.6

Calories: 10,000

Seat Time: 12 hours 11 minutes

Whether you ride a bike or not, thank you for taking the time to ride along this week. If you haven’t already, please scroll up and subscribe. If you like what you read, give it a like 👍🏻 and a share. Oh, and there’s this from John Cruz (exquisite Zimmy cover)

Three For The Road…

In a few weeks I’ll be meeting up in Victorville California with my friends Tim and Ashley. Tim and I met in 1984 at a Coast Guard recruiting office in Northglenn Colorado. Tim and I went through boot camp together, got sent back a few weeks in boot camp together, and graduated from boot camp together. Tim is as good a person as I’ve ever known, and Ashley, his wife, is too good for him.

From Victorville, we’re going to ride our bikes to Kingman Arizona. Tim and Ashley will be on a tandem bike and I’ll be on a bike yet to be determined — or yet to be purchased, depending how things unfold in the coming weeks. 

It’ll be a good opportunity to decompress and gather my thoughts on the heels of my mother’s passing. I’m not sure what changes lay ahead for me after six years of caregiving, but there will certainly be a few. Riding across the Mojave will be a good time to entertain and process any would-be changes in my future.

Our agenda for the ride looks like this…

Day 1: Victorville to Barstow 30 miles 

Day 2: Barstow to Ludlow  50 miles 

Day 3: Ludlow to Needles 110 miles

Day: 4 Needles to Kingman 60 miles 

Day 5 (optional): Kingman to Seligman  90 miles 

We’ll have a truck pre-positioned in either Kingman or Seligman. From there, we’ll load up the bikes and head back to Victorville. I’m looking forward to this. I need this. 

There’s not a lot of talking when you ride cross country. Maybe there’s time to tell a story here and there or crack a joke along the way. The good conversations don’t happen until the day’s ride is through. Tacos are ordered, beer gets opened, and you talk about the day’s ride, memories from the past, and those yet to come. 

Maybe we’ll sleep well, maybe not. We hope to stay in a couple hotels along the way, but we’re prepared for roadside camping if the illustrious Ludlow Inn has no vacancy. No matter, we’ll wake up each morning and go. There’s no better feeling than hitting the road early on a two-lane desert highway. There’s just the rhythm of the legs, the emptiness of the mind, and all that pretty stuff that will surround us. 

I explained to somebody the other day that everything I ever wanted to get out of surfing I’ve found in cycling…

  • Solitude
  • Excitement
  • Immersion into the environment
  • Escape
  • Challenge
  • Physical and mental satisfaction

I’m not sure if I’ll be blogging or even plugged in much when we’re on the road — certainly not on the day we ride from Ludlow to Needles. I’ll take a few hundred pictures along the way though, and share them on our return. Tim, who still shoots on film, is a much better photographer than me. I’m sure he’ll come up with some gems.

If all goes well, we’ll be doing a second trip from Denver to Casa de Cohen at Lake McConaughey in July. More on that later.

Though I haven’t been too active on this platform recently, I’m still writing every morning on my Spoke And Word Facebook page. If you’re interested in my daily shtick, and you should be, please check it out. Perhaps I’ll get back to writing here more in the coming weeks.

This is what I think about when I ride… Jhciacb 

This week by the numbers…

Bikes Ridden: 7

Miles: 174

Climbing: 7,700’

Mph Avg: 15.0

Calories: 9,800

Seat Time: 11 hours 41 minutes

Whether you ride a bike or not, thank you for taking the time to ride along this week. If you haven’t already, please scroll up and subscribe. If you like what you read, give it a like 👍🏻 and a share. Oh, and there’s this from The Rave Ups. By the way, this is the first studio album by the core lineup of The Rave Ups in 30 years. It’s fantastic. Enjoy…!

Those Last Five Days…

When I sat down to write this morning, I was torn. I got seven bike rides in last week and had plenty to think about as I traversed the hills, vineyards, and the chaparral of San Diego’s North County. Still, it was a week of rolling contrasts

Though much of my riding time was spent thinking about the beauty of my surroundings, I also spent time thinking about mothers giving birth in subways 10,000 miles from here. I thought about cancer patients held up in bank vaults without their necessary drugs — a lack of water and electricity notwithstanding. I thought about soldiers willing to aim artillery at buildings containing sick people, children, and the aged. Most of my riding time though, was consumed with thoughts of my mother.

In the early morning of March 6, Willie Etta Cohen passed away. She’d been in a nursing facility for the last five weeks of her life. Through most of that, I was hopeful she’d return home, even if for hospice, so she could pass in her comfortable bed — in the place she called home for the last six years. 

By late February though, her sleeping increased, her appetite vanquished, and her eyes stayed closed most of the time. I knew she wouldn’t be coming home. I’d work each morning and spend my  afternoons at her bedside until visiting hours expired. She’d sleep for most of that time, occasionally waking for smalltalk, to hold hands, and sometimes just stare at each other with that familiar love that doesn’t require words. She was weak though, and fading. 

Monday afternoon, February 28, I had difficulty waking her when I arrived. Her breathing was slightly labored, and the shape of her face had changed from days prior. The lines of her cheekbones stood out — a sign of not eating for several days prior. She’d wake up for a moment here and there, I’d tell her I love her, kiss on the cheek, and let her know it was okay to go back to sleep. She looked peaceful. 

The following day I returned and she was no different. Again, I sat by her bed, reminding her that all of her grandchildren loved her very much — mentioning each grandchild by name. I told her that her sisters loved her, that her nieces and nephews loved her, that all of her friends loved her, and that her two sons loved her. When I left Tuesday evening, I felt it might be for the last time.

After work on Wednesday, March 2, while driving to her facility, a doctor called to let me know her breathing was labored and he felt she was in pain. He wanted to administer morphine. I gave him permission, explaining that I would be there in just a few minutes. He said, candidly, that’s probably a good thing.

When I arrived, she was in a deep sleep — the morphine had already been given.  I sat by her bedside, took her hand, and I thanked her for every day she’d ever given me, every sacrifice she’d ever made, and every ounce of love. I didn’t expect her to make it through the evening. When visiting hours expired, the nurse told me I could stay. Her breathing seemed less labored and I had a sense she’d make it through the night. I whispered in her ear that I’d be back the following day.

Two more days came and went like that. Her breathing would get labored, morphine would be administered, and she’d find a deep sleep. At that point, her cloudy eyes had no life. She would never speak again. It was clear she’d already gone and only her body remained. There was no sign of a person inside. Like I did the night before, I thanked her for every day she’d given me, kissed her on the cheek, and walked away thinking she’d pass during the night. 

Early on Saturday morning, March 5, a nurse called and suggested I come up. When I asked how much time he thought she had, he told me he couldn’t say, but followed that up with…

“I’m making this phone call for a reason…“

I arrived just after 8am. She was no different than she’d been the previous evening. All that stood between her and God was the clock on the wall. I remained with her until after dark when, once again, I made the decision to return home. This time though, I knew I was going to say goodbye for the last time.

Again I thanked her for every day she’d ever given me. I thanked he for every apple-cinnamon coffeecake she left on the cutting board for my brother and I after school. I thanked her for all the snickerdoodle cookies, the chicken in Madeira cream sauce I always got on my birthday, the spaghetti and sausage that she made better than anyone. Lastly, I thanked her for believing in me at times when nobody else would. 

I ran my fingers through her fine hair, kissed her cheek one final time, and whispered I love you in her right ear. I swallowed the largest lump I’ve ever felt in my throat, turned, and walked away. Some time between 3am and 4am Sunday morning her body let go.

I know this was long, and if you’ve made it this far I thank you for taking the time. What I really want to share with you is this…

In those last five days, my mother’s life evaporated. Her eyes were cloudy, her skin was pale, and pardon me for being blunt, but she looked deceased but still breathing. In a way I can’t explain though, she never looked more beautiful to me than in those final days.

I know my mother was young once, that she was middle-aged, and in time would grow to be an older person. In the end though, my mother got to be a baby again — something most people never get to. That’s as complete a lifecycle is one could ask for. And on the last day of her life, she was beautiful. 

This is what I think about what when I ride — and I probably always will…  Jhciacb 

Refujeez…

What a decade so far. What a year. What a week. What a day we have ahead…

I work from home and in bare feet most days.  My pantry and my refrigerator are full. My activities, which are many, take place at my whim. With the exception of an aching molar and a lack of discipline when it comes to eating cookies, I have little to complain about. 

The color of my skin is consistent with not getting hassled in the public square. I have a sound mind — I guess, and at the push of a button I can change the temperature of my living room like it’s some kind of magic. I’m as far as one could possibly be from being defined as a refugee.

Though I don’t expect that I ever will be a refugee, it’s always in the back of my mind — what if…? I’ve asked myself that for many years now…

What if…? What if…? What if…?

I’m not that far from refugee status, all things considered. I don’t have a bunch in the bank. The global hate machine is making more noise than it has in decades, while many in position to curb its aggression remain strangely silent. The potential for economic disaster due to cyber terrorism, biological terrorism, or chemical terrorism have never been greater — traditional warfare notwithstanding. And even if we are able to keep those at bay, we’re long overdue for a good plague. Whoops…

Nearly every day since I saw the movie Red Dawn nearly 40 years ago, I think of Harry Dean Stanton holding fast to the wire that separated he and his sons. I often wonder if I’ll be on that wrong side of that barbed-wire someday. 

I might ride a bike in a few minutes. I might not. I’ll certainly eat something good today and will take it for granted — probably something a Ukrainian refugee might not see again for years, if ever. I’ll probably nap while my housekeeper scrubs the toilets, and I’ll do some bookkeeping to keep my coin coffers full. 

I’ll certainly witness some hate, most likely online, on television, and possibly some in-person hate — that’s always fun. And I contemplate as I dictate this, how I might respond to the hate I witness today — will I confront it or just ignore it like so many others do…? I dunno 🤷🏼‍♂️.

I have no idea what it’s like to be a refugee. Nor do I have any idea what it’s like to be a perpetrator of hate. I understand though, today more than ever, that refugees and perpetrators of hate exist in profound opposition to one another, worldwide. I’ll pray for all them. Of course not all refugees are victims of hate. Some are victims of greed. Refugees though, are never to blame for their predicament. 

What if…?  What if…?  What if…?  

This is what I think about when I ride… Jhciacb

This week by the numbers…

Bikes Ridden: 6

Miles: 145

Climbing: 6,100’

Mph Avg: 15.3

Calories: 8,300

Seat Time: 9 hours 28 minutes

Whether you ride a bike or not, thank you for taking the time to ride along with me today. If you haven’t already, please scroll up and subscribe. If you like what you read, give it a like and a share. If not, just keep scrollin’. Oh, and there’s this from Donna The Buffalo. Enjoy…

Back Soon…

Please forgive me. It’s been a busy week and a half, and writing this blog has been a low priority. 

Last Saturday, my mother suffered a stroke-like symptoms and spent several days in the hospital. A stroke was eliminated, and the likely culprit of those symptoms was a UTI, a brain that is slowly shrinking, and some medication‘s that weren’t well suited to the moment.

Mom is now in a skilled nursing facility in Temecula. I’m hopeful after a couple of weeks of rehab and getting her medications corrected, she’ll return home. Hands folded and fingers crossed. 

I hope to be back with something new next week, but we’ll see how it goes. In the meantime here are some of the pictures I’ve taken since my last post.

Comments are closed this week.

Be well…

The Escape Package…

When I ride each day, I’m peppered by the thoughts of others. Movie lines, song lyrics, and conversations with friends keep me occupied with every mile. Some of these have been recirculating for years. There are also quotes from authors and critical thinkers I’ve read through the years. One thought that’s been making regular appearances these last few months is this nugget…

“Every generation of prosperity has it paid for by the generation or generations prior…”  Jared Diamond, from Upheaval (2019). 

I’m beginning to wonder if we’re a generation going through turmoil to pave the way for a generation down the road to have things better. I pretend it doesn’t get to me, but the cultural polarization we’re experiencing weighs heavy on me — every day. At times it’s so depressing I wish nothing but the worst for humanity, so we can get it over with and yield back the planet to those critters who don’t reason and have done nothing to screw things up.

If you had told me six years ago the best therapies to keep away the sadness and depression that our polarizing social behavior causes me would be photography, cycling, and spending hours a day writing, I would’ve said you pronounced alcohol wrong. But mindless observation, capture, and the documentation of my thoughts have become my medicines of choice. Oh, and some prayer and meditation to hold it all together. Collectively, these are my escape package.

It’s to the point where I spend every non-working moment medicating myself with exercise and creativity, so I can forget about the ugliness of the world and the people in the world who create that ugliness. I just want it to stop. Every time I turn on the television or pick up my phone, I’m reminded of my mother and father screaming at each other when I was a child, and I’d hide under my bed to feel safe. 

Anyway, I don’t really have much to say this week. I know my photographs aren’t world class and my words are amateurish and not well edited. But it’s all I’ve got to lean on these days — it’s what keeps me going.

Oh, and I do want to say something about the folks in Washington DC too — the ones we’ve elected to help govern our country…

I wish they’d shut their mouths and do their jobs. I’m sick and tired of elected politicians opening their yaps and lying or distorting truths for the express purpose of pandering to their base, raising money, and getting reelected. They are literally killing people in the process, destroying lives, and making the country weaker for their own gain. 

How hard is it to do what’s right…? I do it every fucking day of my life. If there’s an afterlife for our elected politicians, at least the ones that are in Washington today, I hope it involves getting eternally sodomized by Satan himself, with a salt-encrusted toilet plunger wrapped in barbed wire. Having a D or an R alongside their name no longer carries any weight with me. And don’t get me started on those who sit before a camera each evening lying and bending truths for the express purpose of an increased ratings share and a bigger paycheck.

If that offends you. I’ll ask your forgiveness. I’m certain I’ll be in a better state of being next week. But even I have my limits. What I’ve seen come out of Washington DC these last few weeks makes me want to cheer for the volcanoes, the hurricanes, the earthquakes, and even the fires.

This is what I think about when I ride… Jhciacb 

This week by the numbers…

Bikes Ridden: 6

Miles: 141

Climbing: 6,100’

Mph Avg: 16.1

Calories: 8,100

Seat Time: 08 hours 43 minutes

Whether you ride a bike or not, thank you for taking the time to ride along with me today. If you haven’t already, please scroll up and subscribe. If you like what you read, give it a like and a share. If not, just keep scrollin’. Oh, and there’s this from The Mint Juleps with Ladysmith Black Mambazo . Enjoy…